7 years old, Audiobooks, Bilingual Journey, Chinese Resources, Home Library, Magazines

Comparison of Chinese Magazines

Chinese magazines. They are soooooooo good and have been a lifesaver for me these days since I’ve been quite busy. If you’re a busy/lazy parent, magazines are your friend!

The best thing about Chinese magazines, in my opinion, is that they come with audio read-aloud CDs by native speakers. They are fantastic quality and provide a lot of advanced, non-fiction vocabulary input.

We spend about 2 hours in the car every Saturday commuting to various activities so I just pop a new CD in every week. By my son’s request, we usually listen to each CD at least twice. This is my quick and easy way to learn new words together with my son.

The magazines are themed and the topics change with the season/holidays. For example, since it is now Fall and we have two fruiting apple trees in our yard, it was perfect timing to listen to the Apples issue.

If you’re wondering which magazine would be a good fit for your kids, I compiled a table below to compare them:

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Factors to Consider:

  1. Publisher After buying thousands of Chinese books, I’ve found that I have very strong preference for two publishers which are 康軒 and 親子天下 and I tend to stick with them. Conversely, there are some publishers I stay away from. I won’t mention which ones since I’ll probably really offend some people LOL.
  2. Content – This is probably the most important thing! What are you looking for in a magazine? I prefer a mix of current affairs (e.g. culture, geography, history, news) and science so I can expose my son to a wide range of vocabulary.
  3. Illustrations – My son tends to gravitate towards books with “cute” illustrations. And yes, he really loves comics.
  4. CD – All the magazines come with read aloud CDs that are fun and engaging. Far better than my own accented (and possibly erroneous) read aloud.
  5. Activity books – Honestly we don’t usually do these because ain’t got no time for crafts. But I know some kids really love their stickers and crafts.

Sample Pages

小行星幼兒誌 Little Planet Magazine

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Image from c-stems.com
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Image from c-stems.com

I was really surprised by how much my son liked this magazine, I think possibly because he is familiar with 親子天下 books and this magazine by the same publisher has similar illustrations, style and voices. He also really enjoyed the activity book that had a detective theme and you solve the clues to find the culprit.

Link to subscribe here

新小小牛頓 Little Newton Magazine

My first impression of this magazine is that it’s very “old” but again I was very surprised by how much my son likes it and has retained information from it. This is the most “sciency” of the three mags. We also enjoy the CDs very much! I heard the DVDs that come with it are also very good but we have not watched them.

This magazine is no longer in circulation so you can only buy old issues.

Links to buy:

康軒學習雜誌 Kang Xuan Top945 Magazine

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Image from c-stems.com
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Image from c-stem.com

This magazine is my personal favorite. My son loves the illustrations and comics but content is sometimes too advanced for him. This is not surprising since it is a 1st to 3rd grade magazine so I feel that it will continue to grow with him. I love the wide range of topics it covers and exposure to culture of different countries, especially Taiwan. When we went to Taiwan this past summer, my son was already very familiar with many Taiwanese foods, landmarks, places of interest, etc. due to reading this magazine.

Link to subscribe here

Other Reviews

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of 康軒學習雜誌 初階版 and 小行星幼兒誌 by C-stems.com (official distributor of these magazines in the USA) for review. Opinions are my own. 

 

6 years old, Audiobooks, Home Library, Kinder Reads, Learning to Read, Magazines, Reviews

Review: 康軒學習雜誌 Top945 Learning Magazine for 3-12 y.o.

There are several Chinese children’s magazines out there but my personal favorite is Top945 康軒學習雜誌.

Magazines are better than books?!

Did you know that childhood experts recommend magazines over books? Magazines provide diverse knowledge and a wide variety of texts like fiction, non-fiction, poems, and interactive content.

Why we love Top945 Learning Magazine:

#1. Well-rounded vocabulary and General Knowledge – I want him to be able to converse on a wide variety of topics in Chinese, not just his limited interests of superheroes, potty jokes and all that useless stuff. 😝

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#2. Mix of real photos and drawings – My son loves the cute characters of Doudou, Nini and Professor Why. They really hold his attention and interest!

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#3. TWO magazines per month for the elementary versions – This basically covers all of my non-fiction needs and is good value-for-money.

#4. Audio CD with every issue!! – Fabulous way for child to acquire advanced vocabulary especially if parent is not a native speaker.

#5. Ideal for busy families – We listen to this in the car and it makes our car trips so so enriching and productive. I don’t need to do anything except hit the play button. Yay for lazy parenting! 😉

The accompanying CD is REALLY REALLY GOOD. Worth its weight in gold in my opinion. My picky son who refused to listen to anything except 米小圈 for the last several months enjoys listening to them. The speakers have perfect enunciation and are very engaging.

Sample clip from CD (PreK-K version). The voices are younger and cuter.

Sample clip from CD (1st-3rd grade version). The voices are more mature and the language more advanced compared to the clip above:

We are listening to them for the second time now because there’s lots of idioms and complex vocabulary that he only understood about 50% of it the first time. The second time listening, his comprehension increased to 70-80%. I explained some key words to him in English as well. I always love materials that are challenging because that’s how kids learn and improve right??

Little Man is not able to read this magazine by himself yet (aside from the comics), so I am having him listen to build up vocabulary. Next year when he is in first grade, I plan on having him read it so he can learn how to read informational text, towards the long-term goal of reading newspapers as an adult.

***I just found out only the US version of Top945 still comes with CD. If you order from Taiwan it will not come with CD but you can download MP3 from their website. ***

Look Inside

Click on the images below to see the inside pages. Full magazines are available online so you can see every page! Wow.

PreK-Kindergarten version 學前版:prek

1st-3rd grade version 初階版:1st

4th-6th grade version 進階版:4th

Supplemental Teaching Materials

Top945 comes with additional materials such activity books, board games and hands-on activities etc., (Click here for details on what is included with your subscription: PreK-K version, 1st-3rd grade, 4th grade and up).

supplemental
Annual subscription comes with activity books, hands-on toys, board games, etc.

Free Gifts!

Exclusive free gifts for my readers: The first 30 subscribers will receive two of the following comic books with MP3 CDs (worth $30)! These are additional to the other free books you will receive when you subscribe to 1 year or more.

These comic books are AMAZING. The quality of the paper and the audio CDs are top notch and my son absolutely loves them. Really recommend to increase kids’ interest in reading Chinese books.

{Click here for review and sample pages of 紅豆綠豆碰 comic books}

U.S. Subscribers

Click on the links below to subscribe to Top945 Learning Magazine (payment via PayPal). In the comments section, type in “Hands On Chinese Fun” to receive your free comic books!

C-Stems is the official distributor of Top945 and other children magazines like Ciaohu and Little Newton in the USA. An issue of Top945 was provided for review. 


Questions or comments? Contact me via my Facebook page!

Audiobooks, Elementary Music, Preschool Music

Music/Audio Devices for Chinese Learning

Because I’m too lazy to write separate blog posts, here’s a comprehensive summary of all the audio devices we’ve used for the last two years from 4-6 years old.

For those of you who are new to my page, I only started teaching my son Chinese at age 4.5. I feel that #1 and #2 listed below are geared more for the 2-5 age group, however, we used them when he was older at 4-6 years old and he still enjoyed them. I’ve also heard the songs in Chinese immersion classrooms so I do think they are okay even up to 6-7 years old if the child is a beginner to Chinese.

Toddler/Preschooler

#1. Songbooks with CD

What it is: Each book/CD has about 40 songs and there are lyrics and picture for each song. This was really helpful for my son when he didn’t know much Chinese yet and he could figure out the meaning of the song from the picture.

Verdict: SUUPER SUUPER love and recommend these because they are such value for money! Each book/CD set costs less than $5 each (90 TWD on books.com.tw or buy in store at Popular bookstore in Singapore) and my son listened to these repeatedly until the CDs were scratched and damaged. Aside from introducing him to all the well-known songs that every Chinese child knows, he also learned a lot of vocabulary and characters by reading along with the lyrics.

Also it turned him from a kid who hates and doesn’t speak Chinese to a kid who does!!

I’ve recommended this many times and parents always say that their kids just LOVE it.

#2. Story Machine 故事機

What it is: It has hundreds of songs and stories pre-loaded in it and the child can use the buttons to select what they want to listen to. Mine is a fancier version that has WIFI connection so you can tune in to a radio channel for a new story every day, voice command, and parents can also wirelessly download new audio into the machine.

Verdict: I bought mine from Taobao for about $35 and had to pay $85 in sensitive mail to ship it to the USA. If I could go back in time I probably wouldn’t have paid $120 total for this and would buy a simpler version from a US-based store like Gloria’s Bookstore or Yobabyshop for about $50. Because truth be told, we barely used the fancy features.

My son still likes to listen to it occasionally when he’s doing crafts or some other silent activity. Since it doesn’t have a screen, it is more difficult to navigate to find the song/story you want. Also, he started outgrowing Chinese 兒歌 and 童話故事 around 6 years old.

Elementary Age

#3. Smartphone Apps

What it is: There are hundreds of free apps out there but because I like to keep things simple, I only use three: XimalayaFM to stream audiobooks for him and NetEaseMusic and Spotify to stream Chinese pop music for me.

Verdict: Completely free and requires zero effort aside from hitting the play button!! I mean, can it get any easier? We use this on every car ride to play audiobooks via bluetooth. Occasionally he lets me listen to my music because… sometimes mommy needs a break from kids stuff.

The downside is that of course my phone is MINE and he can’t have control over it to play it whenever he wants. Which is why #4 below is so important.

#4. MP3 Player

What it is: I spent a long time looking for a portable music player for my son that is HIS to listen to his audio whenever and wherever he wants to. It’s not exactly feasible to walk around with a Discman and CD binder with 20 CDs… 🤣. I didn’t want anything with apps like an iPod because he would probably use it to watch videos and play games instead of the intended purpose of Chinese learning.

Anyway I found this $35 MP3 player from Amazon. I have his files organized into folders “Audiobooks”, “Music” and “Podcasts” and it is easy to navigate. It also has built-in speakers so you can listen with headphones or without.

Verdict: It’s great!! I love seeing him curled up in bed listening to his favorite 米小圈 audiobooks. It is super small and portable for travel and really easy to navigate. Given that it cost only $35 I’m not expecting it to last forever but it’s been doing it’s job for six months now.

It does take time for me to rip files from CD or websites into MP3 but I find it completely worth it. Besides, I can multi-use the MP3 files by also loading them into…

#5. C-Pen

What it is: A reading pen that comes with 5000 stickers that you can use to either record your own audio or to play MP3/wav files that you transfer using your computer. I bought it on sale for $99 and it is now sold on Gloria’s for $121.

Verdict: I love this because it serves so many different functions!!!! It is also really easy to use although it does take time to record/transfer files. Examples below.

Read aloud Chinese/English books:

My son is learning Spanish which I don’t speak, so I rip the audio from Google Translate so that he can read along with it:

When I have to work late and can’t read Chinese with him, I have him record himself so that I can listen to it later: 

Summary

Music and audio play a big role in our Chinese learning journey, particularly since I’m not a native Chinese speaker. It is a trial and error process to find out what works for your child, but most importantly don’t stop trying!!! I’ve heard many parents bemoan that their kids don’t like listening to audiobooks. It took my son a long time to develop a taste for them since he is a more visual and active learner. Try everything! Science, comics, magazines, folk tales, silly stories… If you keep trying eventually something will be a hit! 🙂

Questions? Comments? Connect with me via my Facebook page.

Audiobooks, Preschool Music, Preschool Reads

Free Chinese Audiobooks for Children

I’ve started compiling a list of audiobooks that I plan to listen with my son (5 years old). These are appropriate for preschoolers with Chinese background, or lower elementary immersion students. They are all available for free on Ximalaya! When you click on the links, you can choose to listen on the website or app:

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Classics:

I won’t bother describing these because you’re probably familiar with them from your own childhood. 🙂

奇先生妙小姐 Mr. Men and Little Miss (83 tracks)img_0536
青蛙和蟾蜍 Frog and Toad (20 tracks)img_0528
亲爱的小熊 Little Bear (17 tracks)img_0532
贝贝熊 Berenstein Bears (72 tracks)img_0531
神奇校车 Magic School Bus (22 tracks)img_0525
村长讲故事 Fairy Tales Collection (70 tracks) – This album contains classic stories like The Three Little Pigs as well as Chinese tales like The Moon Lady. Read by TV star Li Rui.

Translated Works:

青蛙弗罗格的成长故事 Frog and Friends (29 tracks) – This is a good series to start with as the stories are easy to understand and relatable for preschoolers.

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你看起来好像很好吃 You Look Yummy (1 track) – Such a tearjerker. 😥 A very moving story about a dinosaur and his adopted son. I hope they record the other books in this series. img_0535

我爱阅读 I Love Reading, Blue Series (42 tracks) – I bought this set of early readers for my son so we’ll try to listen to them first before reading. img_0537

Chapter Books:

The audiobooks above are all short stories and be listened to in any order. The two below are chapter books and are best listened in order (even though each chapter sort of stands alone). They are geared towards early elementary children and are written by Chinese authors. I’m always happy to find non-translated Chinese books because they are such a rare breed!

笨狼的故事 Stupid Wolf (34 tracks) – This is a popular series from China and is about the antics of Stupid Wolf and his friend Clever Rabbit. It reminds of Amelia Bedelia because the main character doesn’t know he’s doing something silly but the child listening can usually figure it out. img_0534
屁屁超人 Fart Boy (8 tracks) – These books are part of acclaimed Reading 123 series from Taiwan. I know my son (big fan of Captain Underpants) will love the potty humor. 💩 Ha ha.img_0533

If you’ve been following my Chinese Home Library posts, you’ll realize I bought 8 of the 11 series listed above. I like having both the book and audiobook because they really compliment each other. Last summer Little Man listened and read Nate the Great about 20x on repeat. He even read harder books like Wayside School after listening to them multiple times.

(Off topic: I highly recommend Nate the Great audiobooks in English. The narrator John Levelle does an amazing job making the characters come to life.)

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But the problem is… where to find time to listen to all these audiobooks?? 🤔

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Audiobooks, Preschool Music, Preschool Reads

Preschool Reads:《睡前5分钟童话》5 Minute Bedtime Fairy Tales Book/CD

I ❤️️ book and CD sets. This book and 《两只老虎》 are my best purchases from Popular bookstore from our last trip back to Singapore.

The book is nothing special but it’s really easy to understand, with only one sentence per page. Really good for younger kids (2+) and beginning Chinese learners.

The book contains four short stories. The 5 minute length of each story is just right for my active-boy-with-short-attention-span.

I was expecting the audiobook to be of poor quality, but much to my pleasant surprise, it is really good!! I enjoy listening to it as it helps me with 朗读 (reading aloud), which is really not one of my talents. Listening to the narrator makes me realize that I read much too fast and lack in expression and intonation. 

We listen in the car, which is when Little Man has the best attention because he is nothing else to do. He loves to read along with the audiobook. This of course is the best part. Improving listening and reading at the same time!

Are you wondering what the audiobook sounds like? That’s always my question when I buy CDs and not knowing if it’s a dud or a win. Click here to listen a little sample!

What I don’t like about it is… it’s soooo naggy! Never thought that I would be nagged to death by an audiobook?!! At the end of each story, the narrator goes on and on about how to be careful, don’t take stuff from strangers, don’t stray away from your mom and dad.. blahblahblah. Tempted to skip those tracks but Little Man didn’t complain so we just listened to it.

We have 2 out of 4 books in the series. I’d like to find other book/CD sets of similar lower listening levels, but not much luck so far. Little Man is not ready to listen to audiobooks without any pictures. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Where to buy: Popular bookstore in Singapore or Malaysia. Popular Online, only ships within Malaysia.

Cost: $8.90 SGD

Publisher: Popular Book Corporation

ISBN: 978-986-301-332-7

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